Tag: Cookbooks

Becoming The Grown-Up Assistant With Knife: Fish Sticks!

Earlier this summer I reunited with my first, three cookbooks.

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It took me some time and internet research to figure out their titles before I could locate them on Amazon.

I remember pouring over these books as a child. Most especially, the spiral-bound Kids Cooking: A Slightly Messy Manual that came with a plastic set of measuring spoons in primary colors. The books’ recipes aren’t anything mind-blowing for an adult who cooks a lot, but they are priceless for the memories.

Growing-up, my parents weren’t too keen on me experimenting in the kitchen, aside from baking projects. However, I do remember trying a few recipes from Kids Cooking such as the Alphabetter Soup and Frosted Chocolate Conecakes. I made mental checklists of recipes that I wanted to try someday when I had my own kitchen and, now, here I am!

One of these recipes was Home-Baked Fish Sticks from Kids Cooking.

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The legend goes that my mom choked on a fish bone when she was a child which led to her lifelong disdain of all things fish. Therefore, we never ever ate fish at home because the smell would make her feel ill. I grew up thinking I hated fish, too, even though I was fascinated by seafood. It was like a little hate crush.

Someone else’s family vacation snapped me out of my aversion to fish. I traveled with my friend’s family to Livingston, Montana in grade school and tried all kinds of new foods on our epic road trip west. I can still taste my first bone-in pork chop, chicken-fried steak, jumbo prawns sizzled in fondue oil, and crispy, fried shrimp nearly twenty years later.

After tasting that first bite of fried shrimp, I remember realizing, “Well, I guess I do like seafood,” and then I never turned back.

My first childhood cookbook meal was a smash.

Fish Meal Salad

I prepared cucumber-tomato-onion salad with “Snappy Dressing” from Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! to accompany my Home-Baked Fish Sticks and tartar sauce. Of course, I fiddled with the recipes.

For example, I added a step by dredging the fish in seasoned flour before dipping it in eggwash and bread crumbs. I may have added some garlic to Encyclopedia Brown’s snappy balsamic vinaigrette and chopped onion to the tartar sauce. Afterall, I am my own grown-up with a sharp knife now.

Kids Cooking Collage

Someday when Jake and I have children, I hope we can enjoy these cookbooks together. We’ll be ready to accept our new roles as their grown-up kitchen assistants.

My Take On Oven-Baked Fish Sticks
Kids Cooking’s method of drizzling melted butter over the panko-breaded fish sticks before baking produces a crispy, satisfying coating. While this is not fried fish, it definitely scratched my itch. 

Ingredients:
1 lb of white fish such as cod, halibut or tilapia
1/2 cup flour (or enough to lightly dredge the fish) seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten into eggwash
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (add more if you run low or they become too mushy with eggwash)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Finishing salt

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400℉.
  2. Set up breading station by placing the seasoned flour, eggwash and panko in their own wide, shallow dishes.
  3. Cut fish fillets into manageable strips. I cut the tilapia fillets in half.
  4. Lightly dredge the fish in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
  5. Dip the dredged fish into the eggwash. Allow the excess to drip off.
  6. Coat the fish in bread crumbs. Turn and press the fillets until they are completely breaded.
  7. Place breaded fish in a single layer on a baking sheet that is lightly greased or covered in parchment paper.
  8. Drizzle each fillet with as much melted butter as you’d like.
  9. Optional: Sprinkle each fillet with a little sweet or smoked paprika for extra color and flavor.
  10. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked-through.
  11. Sprinkle with sea salt immediately after removing from oven.
  12. Serve with tartar sauce and fresh lemon wedges. I made my tartar sauce by mixing mayonnaise with lemon juice, minced dill pickle, minced onion, pickle juice, salt and sugar, to taste.

I’m Smitten With Smitten With Squash: Layered Greek Tzatziki Dip

I’m smitten with Smitten With Squash, Amanda Paa’s new cookbook. She’s a Twin Cities resident who also blogs beautiful recipes at Heartbeet Kitchen.

Just as the book’s description says, Smitten With Squash is truly a celebration of this diverse and under-appreciated vegetable.

It seems that Midwesterners get inundated with zucchini and yellow squash in the summer and winter squash ranging from acorn to delicata in the fall right up ’till the winter. I almost can’t get enough squash and appreciate how this cookbook offers over seventy ways to prepare squash for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. It’s probably the best available cure for those suffering from squash fatigue.

Squash

For those who are allergic to gluten, each recipe can be prepared gluten-free if desired. Amanda shares her favorite gluten-free flour substitute so everyone can make her baked goods like Sweet Delicata Pie With Pecan Praline (p. 125) and Chocolate Coconut Zucchini Bread (p. 62). My good friend introduced me to chocolate zucchini cake and I’m excited to try Amanda’s version.

Amanda has graciously given me permission to share one of her cookbook’s recipes here on Jeni Eats. It was hard to choose my first recipe, but I decided to prepare her Layered Greek Tzatziki Dip (p. 18) with a beautiful North Iowan zucchini I bought at my local Mason City farmers market.

This dip is so refreshing because it’s perfectly fresh with seasonal vegetables, herby with dill, basil, and parsley, and it strikes an addicting balance with lemon-flecked greek yogurt and garlicky marinated vegetables.

Jake and I are storing the yogurt and vegetable mixtures in separate containers and layering them upon serving, since it’s just for the two of us. Amanda notes that one can use a combination of any herbs and prepare the dip a day ahead.

Layered Greek Tzatziki Dip
From Smitten With Squash by Amanda Kay Paa. Serves 8-10 as an appetizer. 

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Marinated Vegetables
1 cup finely chopped zucchini
1 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped canned artichokes
1 1/2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dip
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
16 ounces light sour cream
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Toasted pita wedges or tortilla chips for serving (I made a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s pita bread and toasted my own wedges in a 400℉ oven with olive oil, salt and pepper until golden brown).

Instructions
Mix together all of the marinated vegetable ingredients and allow them to sit for at least one hour. The flavors will develop the longer they mingle.

When you are ready to assemble the dip, drain off any extra liquid from the vegetables. Set aside 1/4 cup of the vegetables. If you are preparing the dip for a party, layer the yogurt and vegetables in a clear, round serving bowl, starting with the vegetables. Finish by topping the last yogurt layer with the reserved 1/4 cup vegetables in a circular mound.

You can also mix the vegetable and yogurt mixtures together, or layer them as individual portions if you are not serving a group.

Three Recipes I Like & My Childhood Cookbooks

Summer is making me want to cook and bake everything.

I love the sunshine and even the thunderstorms. I like opening my windows in the morning and look forward to going to our little farmers market each week. All of these things feel make me feel energized about trying new recipes. Here are several I’ve tried recently that turned out well.

Pulled Pork in the Crock-Pot
I’m sheepish to admit that I’ve never made pulled pork. Growing up, my mom slow-cooked boneless country pork ribs with barbecue sauce. I think we ate it so often that I haven’t wanted to make it as an adult.

Three things inspired my pulled pork endeavor: Eating a fantastic pulled pork meal from Pimento Jamaican Kitchen located in the food court of the Burnsville Mall, reading Beth’s Slightly Savory Saturday post about pulled pork, and winning an Iowan pork prize pack from Cristen’s blog Food & Swine.

I followed Christine Gallary’s recipe for Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork from Chow.com it turned out perfectly.

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Pull-apart tender, moist and flavorful. Plus, you are left with wonderful au jus after you de-fat and strain the juices. We enjoyed our pork with this homemade coleslaw on either buns or steamed rice.

Taste of Beirut’s Recipe for Lebanese Meat Pies (Sfeeha)
I love Lebanese food and miss the little triangle pies I bought at Emily’s Lebanese Deli in NE Minneapolis. These beef pies aren’t as pretty as Joumana’s but they taste so good.

Meat Pies

I followed her recipe as written, except that I substituted balsamic vinegar for pomegranate molasses and minced red jalapeno for red pepper paste. You could always substitute slivered almonds for pine nuts and don’t forget to buy lean meat, otherwise, the fat will turn into molten lava while they bake and drip.

We like dipping our pies in greek-style yogurt.

Rhubarb Custard Meringue Dessert
I’m kind of obsessed with Rhubarb. I tried bake Aunt Emma’s Rhubarb Custard Dessert (from the Land O’Lakes website) in my tart and pie pans.

rhubarb tart
The crust stuck to the pans and one of meringues started weeping, but the dessert tasted fantastic. If I were to make this again, I’d bake it in a regular baking dish lined with parchment paper or blind-bake homemade pie crust for the tart and pie pans.

Jake’s never tried a variation of this dessert before and declared it one of his favorites, weepy meringue and crumbled crust and all.

My First Three Cookbooks
Do you remember your first cookbooks? Mine were Enclyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake, Alpha-Bakery by General Mills & Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual.

My original books were long since misplaced, so I ordered my own copies again. The recipes aren’t the most exotic, but many of my friends consider dishes like Alpha Bakery’s banana bread and Kids’ Cooking’s Disgustingly Rich Brownies classic favorites. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right? Someday, I’ll share them with my kids.

As I’ve alluded to earlier, my parents were hesitant to let me experiment in the kitchen, so I didn’t prepare many of these recipes. It’s time for some cooking catharsis.

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Catharsis never tasted so chocolatey.

Have you tried any great recipes lately? What were your first cookbooks? 

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